Coronation of slick champions: Mamelodi Sundowns blast Leopards to retain PSL title
Mamelodi ‘Sundowns comeback from a big points deficit from leaders Kaizer Chiefs‚ and then assuredness of their display under pressure of their 3-0 final-day dismissal of Black Leopards‚ marked them as worthy 2019-20 Absa Premiership champions.
Downs’ 3-0 dismantling of Leopards at Dobsonville Stadium came via a hat-trick from forward Lebohang Maboe with strikes three minutes into first half injury time‚ in the 52nd minute‚ and five minutes into second-half added time.
This was the coronation of slick champions and the underlining of Pitso Mosimane’s managerial legend in South African football.
The Brazilians came from a 13-point deficit a few months ago to beat long-time leaders Chiefs to the finishing line and lay claim to an unprecedented La Decima of 10 PSL titles that is going take many years to be repeated.
Even more astonishing for Mosimane and his Sundowns champion team is that they remain on course for a rare treble as they still have the Nedbank Cup final against Bloemfontein Celtic to play on Tuesday.
To put this astonishing feat by Downs in perspective is to take note that Chiefs did not even play MTN8 football this season while Sundowns took part in a gruelling five competitions.
In December‚ while most Premiership players were enjoying some downtime with their families‚ Sundowns were training on Christmas Day in Algiers preparing for their Champions League‚ group stages clash against USM Alger.
This is devastating news for Chiefs and their beleaguered coach Ernst Middendorp who blew a significant lead at the top of the standings to end up finishing second.
Amakhosi’s long wait for the championship title continues as they last won the league at the end of the 2014/15 season‚ and it is difficult to see Middendorp continuing as coach of Chiefs given the type of football they have played‚ even if they spent most of 2019-20 on top of the log.
Chiefs will have to go back to the drawing board as conceding the title like this to their bitter rivals is embarrassing and their fans will definitely not be impressed with how they played in the bio-bubble.
Agaonst Leopards‚ Sundowns missed out on an opportunity to take the lead after Ricardo Nascimento’s penalty was saved by goalkeeper King Ndlovu just after the half-hour mark.
This was after referee Luxolo Badi had adjudged Leopards defender Isaac Masia to have hacked Sundowns attacker Themba Zwane in the box‚ but Ndlovu produced a stunning double save to dent the usually reliable Nascimento.
It was not all Sundowns in the opening exchanges of the game as Leopards‚ who missed their suspended captain and leading goal scorer Mwape Musonda‚ had a few opportunities on the attack through Thabiso Mokoena and Themba Ndlovu.
Another opportunity for Sundowns to take the lead went begging three minutes from the break after a well-struck header by Motjeka Madisha that he connected with a free-kick from Gaston Sirino ricocheted off the upright with Ndlovu beaten.
Deep in referee’s optional time of the first half the woodwork came to the rescue of Leopards again as Zwane’s close-range shot rebounded of the upright and straight into the hands of Ndlovu.
Moments later Sundowns deservedly got the opener through the pinpoint header of Maboe‚ who connected with a cross from Zwane with effectively the last bit of action in the first half.
Maboe increased Sundowns’ lead when he pounced from close range after he received a pass from Zwane‚ as the Brazilians took advantage of sloppy defending by Leopards.
Sundowns dwelled too much on their second goal and were caught by a quick counterattack from Leopards that resulted in Themba Ndlovu’s effort bouncing of the upright to safety.
Maboe registered his hat-trick in referee’s optional time as the Brazilians pushed Leopards to the promotion and relegation play-offs against Ajax Cape Town and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila.
Mosimane went with the same line-up that started Downs’ previous match against Polokwane City where they won 3-0 during the week to ensure that this title race would be decided on the last day of the season.
Sundowns will return to the Champions League as PSL winners with their confidence sky high‚ with Mosimane looking to recapture the continental trophy that they won against all odds in 2016.